Just off the top of your head, can you name three people with an uncanny ability to lead?
You’ll note that we did not say ‘name powerful people’; one can be powerful but in no way possess the skills for effective leadership.
Does that mean applying leadership skills to business or diplomatic ventures makes one a weakling?
Quite the contrary! Leaders – true leaders, not ones that bully, intimidate and otherwise demand what they want or else, have a quiet reserve about them, a core of steel encased in a cloak of civility and empathy that some of today’s leaders could not imitate if they were given lessons in management and leadership.
One hundred years ago, it might have been sufficient to yell louder or have more money, prestige and resources. Today, none of that is enough; our business environment, our global relations and even our personal ties demand more.
They demand more than the illusion of care and respect. While it is not necessary to treat everyone as an equal – that would undermine the entire corporate structure, it is vital in today’s world to treat everyone with value.
I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, isn’t that treating people as valuable?
It is a step in the right direction but there is so much more to being a leader and employing great interpersonal skills in every transaction with everyone you meet. In fact, you might be surprised at how employing leadership skills can enrich your life, at the office, at home and everywhere in between.
Let’s talk about effective leadership skills and how they make for a great leader.
Good Leadership Skills Imply Effective Communication
Long gone are the days when the boss walked around shouting orders that cowering underlings rushed away to comply with.
That doesn’t mean that nobody gets shouted at in today’s work environment, it just means that a manager who constantly berates their employees is apt to get charged with workplace harassment.
On the other hand, employing dulcet tones and attempting to cajole people into doing what you need them to do is not an indication of the soft skills inherent of good leadership, either.
What you say and how you say it has a tremendous impact on how others respond to you.
Clearly, if you stand with your hands on your hips, with your head jutted forward and your eyes bulging as you shout, nobody is going to care that you’re aiming for conflict management; they’re just going to get out of your way as quickly as possible.
The takeaway here is that your communication skills involve body language and tone. Only if people have nothing to be wary of will they focus on the content of your words.
At that point, vocabulary matters. Knowing how to use speech effectively is a vital step in communicating like a leader.
Incorporate Active Listening in Your Leadership Style
The flip side to speaking effectively is listening effectively.
Too often, people listen with half an ear while formulating their response in their head so that, when it is their turn to talk, they have something to say even though they hadn’t heard a word of what was said to them.
To listen effectively, you have to put yourself to the side. Hear what the other person is saying and reinforce that you’ve heard by repeating the salient point(s) of the argument:
Employee: “I really can’t go on working here when Sally does nothing but gets all the credit.”
Manager: “So, you’re saying that Sally is deceitful and we’ve not caught on to her tricks?”
Voilà! In one fell swoop, you have proven that you have indeed listened to the complaint, validated your employee’s perspective and taken accountability for not catching on to Sally’s shenanigans.
You have also implied disdain for dishonesty and lack of integrity, another trademark of an effective leader.
Join the discussion: why is leadership development important in today’s world?
Honesty and Integrity Are Key to Developing Leadership Skills
Many people tend to conflate honesty with integrity; in fact, they are two distinct qualities great leaders all embody.
Telling the truth is just one aspect of honesty; others include not cheating, not taking what isn’t yours and being sincere – just as we learned when we were small.
Integrity has a much broader definition that involves morality and ethical principles, honesty among them.
You can have honesty without integrity but integrity does not exist without honesty.
Some people believe these values are under attack because the definition of morality is being heavily challenged in these modern times. Who decides what is moral or ethical?
Throughout history and even today, some people’s leadership styles have been widely regarded as unethical but because they are in a leadership position, could not simply be removed from their position or held to account.
Taking responsibility is the trademark of a good leader; that leaves no room for delegating blame, which would be unethical.
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Those who know how to lead also know to hold themselves accountable for shortfalls in team performance.
They don’t wait to be judged in the court of public opinion or removed from their position for a wrong-doing; they constantly scrutinise their performance and actions, as well as those in their charge to determine where and how the course should be corrected, as it were.
Good leaders never blame anyone but themselves, even when it was someone whose deeds they are responsible for who actually made the mistake.
It happened on their watch and that is enough for the manager with leadership skills to shoulder the responsibility.
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A Leader Knows How to Delegate
Everyone hates a micromanager.
If you’ve ever had a boss looking over your shoulder, telling you how to do your job and constantly criticising, you know what it feels like to have such a manager.
Don’t worry, it’s not about you but about them. They need to feel in control so they examine every little thing that you do and put in their two cents worth whether you want them to or not.
Their doing so means that they don’t trust themselves to relinquish control; nor do they trust you to do the job right. They especially do not want you to become in any way more skilled or knowledgeable than they are.
A good leader practises transformational leadership.
They see it as their duty to help you develop into the best employee you can be. They have no problem trusting you with the work you’re assigned to do and will offer support and encouragement along the way.
Empowerment is a skilled leader’s middle name. Such a mentor seeks to arm you with the tools and skills for you to achieve success, be it extra training, workshops or a bit of coaching when you need it.
And don’t be surprised if their management style leads to your personal development. Who wouldn’t want to emulate someone with such leadership qualities?
Leaders are self-confident. It is that very confidence that permits those in a leadership role to prepare you to share the stage with them.
Doesn’t this make you interested in knowing how you can develop strong leadership skills to benefit every aspect of your life?
Innovation and Creativity: Two Essential Leadership Traits
How you approach the challenges in your life is a sign of your abilities as a leader.
Used to be that throwing money at a problem was enough to make it go away. To some extent, that holds true today, too... but what if you don’t have piles of money to throw at every challenge that rears its head?
Whether they have bottomless pockets or not, effective leaders prefer to take the innovative approach to problem-solving and they encourage their subordinates to do the same.
You may hear these phrases bandied about during a leadership training course or a project team meeting:
- Let’s brainstorm the issue – get thinking, guys!
- Think outside the box – come up with novel solutions
- also called ‘out of the box thinking’
- paradigm shift: we have to look at things differently
- visualisation: imagining facets or components of a problem
Those endowed with enviable management skills have made it to the point that their thinking skills give them the ability to see beyond traditional solutions to modern challenges.
In fact, so versatile is their ability to analyse and conceptualise that they will use it any chance they get. They will probably foster those same skills onto you, too. Be ready for them!
Did you know that Critical Thinking is the topic of an A-Level exam?
The Icing on the Cake: Emotional Intelligence
Since she died, I’ve not been handling things very well – Ken Brown, Building Services Technician
When this particular leader related the story of his employee talking with him about being off-centre since his mother’s passing, we were struck by two aspects of that tale: the employee talked openly about his feelings and he felt comfortable approaching his manager with such a personal matter.
By taking the time to share Ken’s burden for those few minutes, Mr Boss gave Ken proof that he is a valued employee. He also proved himself trustworthy; it’s not every day that one can talk so frankly about a personal matter with one’s boss, is it?
Would you have such a discussion with your leaders and managers?
Without that brand of personal leadership on display, Ken might not have talked with his manager; in fact, he might have told his fellow workers a completely fabricated story: "I went to talk to Mr Boss and he basically shut me down in my time of need. What a jerk!"
Morale would be lower, to say nothing of team performance. Yes, it's true: the dysfunctions of a team can relate directly to the team leaders. That is why so many companies are on board with leadership and management training.
Investment in skills training is not just meant to protect the company's bottom line, it is also designed to cultivate leadership competencies in those employees who will eventually be promoted to managerial positions.
That's at the corporate level. On a personal level, leadership skills can help you gain self-awareness, cultivate strategic thinking and conflict resolution techniques - basic skills that anyone can benefit from.
Doesn't that make you want to take the steps you need to take to develop leadership skills?